KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Zakai Zeigler scored 13 points and Santiago Vescovi added 12 as No. 8 Tennessee overcame poor shooting in the second half and beat Tarleton State 65-46 Thursday night.

“This was exactly the kind of game we thought we were going to have,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “(Tarleton State) is one of the slowest playing teams in the country. It's a low-possession game. You have to grind it out. Every possession counts.”

The Volunteers (9-3) shot 2 for 17 in the first nine minutes of the second half. However, Tennessee's lead never dipped below nine points in that time. The Volunteers shot 6 for 28 in the second half.

“(Starting the second half) we told them to strap their shoes up and tighten up,” said Joseph Jones, Tarleton State's acting head coach while Billy Gillispie is away with a medical situation. “(Playing physical) is what we teach every day. We want to be the toughest team on the floor every night.”

Josiah-Jordan James added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee.

The Texans (8-4) used an aggressive defense and cut their deficit to six points with about five minutes remaining. Devon Barnes led Tarleton State with 12 points, while Lue Williams and KiAndre Gaddy added 10 point apiece.

“We had a chance to stretch it out in the second half, but didn't,” Barnes said. “Sometimes you shoot (well), sometimes you don't. Everything we do is preparing us for the (Southeastern Conference). This will help us."

Vescovi made two free throws and drew a charge that set up a layup by Jordan Gainey, pushing The Volunteers' lead back to 10 points.

Tennessee trailed by two points in the first half before going on a 15-2 run and taking a 25-14 lead. Tarleton State never recovered. Vescovi and Dalton Knecht each scored five points in the run and the Vols led 39-25 at the break.


Barnes, in his 37th season in college basketball and ninth at Tennessee, was announced as a first-time nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The finalist announcement will be made Feb. 16 at the NBA All-Star Game and the 2024 class will be announced April 6 at the NCAA Final Four in Phoenix.

“This is a team game,” Barnes said. “It's always about the players and the staff. You have to be willing to learn something every day.”


Tarleton State: After a stunning upset over Jacksonville State earlier in the week, the Texans have lost two straight. They will try to right the ship before they return to Western Athletic Conference play against UT Arlington Jan. 4. Tarleton State won both of its early WAC games.

Tennessee: For most of November and December, the Vols have been looking for offense to go along with Dalton Knecht. Finally, they found it. Knecht scored a total of 11 points in the two games before Tarleton State, but others emerged. Jonas Aidoo, Josiah-Jordan James and Zakai Ziegler were all impressive. The next step is to find consistency.


Tarleton State: At Loyola Marymount on Dec. 29.

Tennessee: Off for nearly two weeks before hosting Norfolk State on Jan. 2, ahead of Southeastern Conference play.


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